Update – many on the conservative side breathed a cautious sigh of relief when General David Petraeus was placed in charge of the NATO war effort in Afghanistan. Not many criticized his predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal, but there were grumbles about how he handcuffed his troops through tight rules of engagement as discussed in the original post.
Patraeus was seen as perhaps more of a warrior who would take the gloves off and permit our soldiers to do what soldiers do in war…kill the enemy and break things. To many Patraeus was Patton. As expected General Patraeus did modify the complex rules of engagement in Afghanistan. He actually made them even more stringent in an attempt to win the support of the Afghan people.
It sounds like a reasonable concept to try to limit civilian casualties, though most wars and battles that we have won in the past have either purposefully or incidentally killed many as we fought against our enemies. It must be a thankless job for Patraeus to have to try to win this battle in a country where folks seem used to this type of action. Try to imagine sitting at home while a furious gun battle erupts one hundred yards away. Try to imagine what it must be like when half of those engaged are dressed just like you and make it a point to hide with you when things get too hot in the battle.
Severely restricting the rules of engagement puts our soldiers at greater risk to protect civilians. Publishing our rules of engagement so the enemy can exploit them puts our soldiers at greater risk. As more and more of our fighting men and women pay their last full measure in this war I have to ask whether it is worth it? We seem to be winning the hearts of the politicians in Afghanistan, but will lose the war.
Is it now time to stop?